The Woman I Am. 2nd ed.


92 pages
ISBN 1-55071-088-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Laura M. Robinson

Laura M. Robinson is assistant professor of children’s literature at
Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.


Happily, Guernica Editions has produced a second edition of Dorothy
Livesay’s The Woman I Am. This collection of Livesay’s poems spans
the years 1926 to 1977 (Livesay died in 1996). Her poems celebrate the
erotic and sensual in ordinary daily life. In “Easter,” for example,
she writes tantalizingly of the spring: “And is there fear / in each
incisive thrust / of white shoot from the dark / cold kingdom of the
loam?” Livesay is a master poet, and this collection represents her
opus admirably.

In “The Three Emilys,” her widely anthologized poem, Livesay
distinguishes herself from three artist Emilys: Brontл, Dickinson, and
Carr. The differences between Livesay and the three are clear on almost
every page as she explores her often complicated relationships with men:
“you smell as a woman should,” says a man in “Breathing”; “He
talked more than he made love,” claims “Morning Rituals”; “Be
woman,” orders the man in “The Taming.” Unlike the unmarried
artist Emilys, Livesay’s poet-persona excavates the depths of her
complicity and desire in heterosexual relationships, lamenting only
occasionally the energy these relationships drain from her as she does
in “The Three Emilys.” Mostly, however, her lover(s) provide her
with poetic inspiration—and what inspiration it is: “pierce me again
/ gently / so the penis completing / me / rests in the opening / throbs
/ and its steady pulse / down there / is my second heart / beating,”
she writes in “The Touching.”

Livesay does not neglect the political, and this collection includes
such poems as “Les Anglais: Coming Out of Quebec” and
“Reservations,” the latter punning on Indian reservations and
reservations about what forms Canada. Livesay is a extremely important
Canadian poet, and Guernica Editions should be commended for keeping her
work available and accessible.


Livesay, Dorothy., “The Woman I Am. 2nd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,